Meat the new king.
“In Santa Monica, specifically, on the Westside, we wanted a flagship location,” Belcampo Meat Co. president Bronwen Hanna-Korpi says. “We definitely wanted to have a big restaurant with a full bar program and a full pastry program—those are both totally new to us. We wanted do something sort of like, booyah.”
Get out the Jim Cramer buzzer because that booyah era will begin on Sunday, when Belcampo opens its 86-seat restaurant, a high-ceilinged, colorful, 2,200-square-foot space with a polished industrial feel and a gorgeous bar featuring cocktails from no less than L.A. mixology maven Josh Goldman (whose drink programs around the city include the concoctions at his own Santa Monica restaurant, Brilliantshine).
The location is just down the street from Santa Monica Seafood and Huckleberry, in an area that gets significant foot traffic.
“We have always loved this little corridor of Wilshire, and when we found this space [the former Dakota Lounge music venue] and it came with a liquor license, it was perfect,” Hanna-Korpi says.
Head chef Maiki Le (formerly of Josie) has created a meat-focused menu offering dishes like grilled beef heart with warm vegetables and salsa verde, a quail salad, both beef and goat tartare, and a mutton chop. There’s also, of course, the Belcampo cheeseburger and large-format steak.
“You can get a burger and a great beer and call it a day, or you can get the $150 steak and a magnum of amazing Barolo,” says Hanna-Korpi, who adds that the top section of the menu is built for those who want to nosh and drink. “The cool thing is, what I’m also interested in seeing is people hanging out at the bar and having a couple small plates or snacks and one of Josh’s amazing cocktails. We have these French dips that are on pâte à choux, so they’re like eclairs.”
The Santa Monica complex, which also includes a 1,000-square-foot butcher shop that opened last weekend, goes far beyond Belcampo’s butcher-and-burger counter in Grand Central Market.
“We have Josh, we have Tyler Wells [who co-founded Handsome Coffee Roasters] doing the coffee,” Hanna-Korpi says. “We have David Lynch [of San Francisco’s St. Vincent) doing the wine. The cool thing about them is that they really want to be doing this because they like what we do, so it’s not like we had to pay everyone a fortune to come and help us.”
Yes, there’s still an indie team spirit feeling in the air at Belcampo, even though a rib eye steak at the Santa Monica shop run by head butcher Alex Jermasek will cost you $34.99 a pound. And that kind of pricing gets to the point of what Belcampo is. All of the meat it sells at its butcher shops and restaurants is organic and humanely raised on its own Northern California farmland and processed in its own facility.
“It’s expensive to do meat the way we do it,” Hanna-Korpi says. “It’s not like our margins are huge, but the thing about [Santa Monica] is that people get it.”
Neighborhood residents who already buy caviar and king crab at Santa Monica Seafood or seasonal berry tarts at Huckleberry are used to paying more for premium ingredients. And when you throw in other neighborhood options like the imported charcuterie and cheese at Guidi Marcello, the pastas and olive oils at Bay Cities, and all the meat at fellow new-school butcher shop A Cut Above, Santa Monica can make a strong case as the city’s top destination for gourmet groceries. It doesn’t hurt that the neighborhood also has L.A.’s best farmers’ market and attracts customers who want to buy unusual food.
“I am so pleased with how many people walk in [the Belcampo butcher shop] and are like, ‘Hell yeah, what do you recommend?’” Hanna-Korpi says. “Not everybody wants rib eyes and strips, which is great. We’re whole-animal, so we want people to try new cuts and weird stuff. People here seem to totally get it.”
In addition to the impressive selection of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and more, there’s bone broth for $5 a cup and Ready Meals for those who would like a microwaveable portion of pasta with beef shank ragu or mutton curry with kale and collard greens.
At both the butcher shop and restaurant, Belcampo wants to encourage customers to celebrate nose-to-tail ingredients, enjoy more offal, and try different species (perhaps you’d like guinea hen or squab instead of chicken?) while savoring a wide range of flavors.
“We see ourselves as meaty California cuisine,” Hanna-Korpi says. “And the way we define California cuisine is borrowing from a lot of cultures because that’s California. Like our chicken wings that have a sweet and sour sauce and have jalapenos on top. I love that when you ask a Californian what their comfort food is, it could be lo mein or tacos. It’s not like some other places in the country, where it’s, like, grits, where the South has more that sort of American-y identity. California is much more all over the board, so we might as well embrace it and take advantage of the fact that we can call it all California cuisine and just have great meat.”
Belcampo Meat Co., 1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, 424-744-8008. The butcher shop is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant will be open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.